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  Sangihe & Talaud
Local Time Manado:
  Tahuna Bay at Sangihe Besar Island
A Tour of Duty in North Sulawesi
by Adam J. Fenton

(continued from Bolaang Mongondow Page)

The islands off the very north coast of Manado, which seem to form a kind of bridge with the very southernmost islands of the Philippines, are the group known as Sangihe & Talaud.
An archipelago of 77 islands, Sangihe & Talaud like most unspoiled areas is not easy to get to. A speedboat makes the journey from Manado in around six hours, stay overnight and go back the next day. The administrative capital and largest town is Tahuna on the island of Sangihe Besar. There are several hotels here offering basic but passable accommodation. In town, shop for the carved ebony wood for which the area is famous, as well as embroidered fabrics from the island of Batunderang. There’s also an interesting house of Dutch design and unknown age. If you have a couple of days and plenty of extra energy you could climb Gunung Awu the spectacular volcanic peak. First check in at the monitoring station at Tulusau, to make sure conditions are right. To the south of Sangihe Besar, the island of Siau has a glorious 1800m volcanic peak known locally as Gunung Api Siau. This volcano had a major explosion in 1974, which destroyed much of the infrastructure of the island. It can be climbed but should be approached with caution.

The region’s other main attractions are its completely unspoilt beaches of which there are many. Sangihe Talaud is also getting more and more popular with birdlovers. The islands are home to nine endemic species, and new ones are being discovered regularly.
 Continue Reading: Bitung & Lembeh Strait

This year is a special year, an unusual break with routine. After a good harvest last year, everyone was amazed when the clove trees started to fruit again. Although not a great harvest (“panen raya”), this year the gods seem to have blessed the people of Sangihe Talaud, because the clove trees have fruited again. Or so they thought. But the epithet "Indonesia wins again" applies equally to the poor farmers of the islands off North Sulawesi, because as the farmers watched the fruits form and ripen on the trees, they also watched the price fall from Rp 80,000 per kilo, to as low as Rp 25,000 per kilo by the peak of the harvest.

Still, everyone is busy harvesting the cloves. People will travel from Minhasa to help with the harvest, that can only be achieved by climbing the tree and pulling the branches in to the trunk with a specially designed double hooked bar. Then the fruit, pale green or slightly red can be plucked off the branch and carefully placed in the nylon sac or basket carried by the farmer. One tree can take over a day to harvest, with a 'good' yield being 60- 70 kg of green fruit. Each kilo of fresh harvested fruit will be only 300 g when fully dried.

Each village is heavy with the scent of drying cloves. Each road side or even a row down the middle of a road in narrow areas, is lined with Hessian sacks covered with cloves. In three to four days in a dry sunny period the Green and red fruit shrinks and darkens through orange, brown to the familiar brown-black nail that we love in baked ham and mulled wine. Very little of this crop is exported, an estimated 95% goes up in smoke, the heart of the Indonesian tobacco industry.
A specialty of the Maluku islands just next door, this spice is one of the highest value exports for the small scale farmer. Fruiting from about the fifth year, a tree can remain productive for over twenty years. Except in Talaud, where there are orchards full of cloves, most plantations seem ramshackle and disordered, in fact this is a highly evolved multi-crop; coconuts interspersed with nutmeg produce an export harvest three to four times a year. Banana’s and breadfruit are grown for home and local consumption. And the ferns can be harvested for pakis.

Most are organically grown – the cost of applying fertilizer and the reticent nature of fruition makes it not effective to add expensive chemicals.

But the two types of clove (Zanzibar and Kelotok) that is exceptional to this area with its own mystique and legend. They say that every harvest needs to have a sacrifice, indeed in early August two people fell to their deaths on the same day. The porters at Tahuna port tell of the  tree  that is  so large it  takes  six people to ring it at arms stretch and half a village to harvest it.

But most trees do not reach this exception. A seedling planted and well tended will fruit for the first time in five or six years, then continue to fruit cyclically for the next twenty years or so. Guaranteeing two of the most typical tropical smells, - Enchanting exotic spices and smoking Kreteks.

Bill Marsden

Bill Marsden is a technical advisor for Yayasan Laut Lestari Indonesia (YLLI).
Yayasan Laut Lestari Indonesia is undertaking a long-term programme to reduce environmental degradation and raise the standard of living of the Coastal communities of Sangihe Talaud. Working with communities, Local NGO’s and Local Government.
YLLI would like to thank the Yayasan Kelola Sangihe Talaud team for their help in researching this article.

"What's Happening?"
Manado Safari Tours Newsletter

Underwater Volcano at Mahangetang
The site of the underwater volcano

Other Information Sources:

 Mt Karangetang (Siau)
  Volcanic Activity Report
 Bird Watching in Sangihe-Talaud
Diving at Sangihe Talaud: Manta Ray
The Sangihe Talaud Islands are a paradise for divers

Eruption at Mt. Karangetang, Siau Island
Eruption at Mt. Karangetang, Siau

Mt. Awu volcano in Sangihe Besar
The massive Gunung Awu stratovolcano
occupies the northern end of
Sangihe Besar (Great Sangihe) Island.

Sangihe Talaud
Fast Facts

Map of North Sulawesi with Sangihe Talaud Islands
Sangihe and Talaud are a chain of islands stretching north from Sulawesi in the direction of the Philippines. The archipelago consists of 77 islands, of which 56 are inhabited. The population is 260,370 people (1996). Most of the people are involved in agriculture, which includes coconuts, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves. There are many active volcanoes here and a very fertile soil. The islands are divided into two main groups; Sangihe, consisting of the islands Sangir Besar, Siau, Tagulandang and Biaro; and Talaud consisting of the islands of Karakelang, Salibabu, Kaburuan, Nanusa, Miangas, plus many other smaller ones.
In 2002 Sangihe and Talaud became seperate regencies, with the capital of Sangihe being Tahuna, while that of Talaud is Melonguane. Both Sangihe and Talaud have small airstrips serviced by Merpati Nusantara Airlines once a week. Please check with a travel agent. There are seaports in Tahuna, Siau, Tagulandang and Beo which are serviced by various ferries and local boats.
Sangihe Talaud is renowned for its magnificent white sandy beaches with amazing coral gardens as well as an underwater active volcano.


THE KING'S PALACE. Is the old royal residence used during the period of the Tahuna Kingdoms, Manganitu and Tamako. Inside the building you can still see relics of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Tagalog episodes. This is a definite must see.

THE OLD CHURCH. This church is located in Manganitu, Sangihe Besar Island. It was built by Ernst Traugott Steller, a German missionary, in the last century. There is nothing left inside, however the building is still intact. There is a family gravesite on the property. Take a look, as it is one of the few historical sights in the islands. >>More info

Mt. Awu Crater Lake
MOUNT AWU CRATER LAKE. Situated on Sangihe Besar Island, Mount Awu (1320 m) is still active and it last erupted in 2004. The crater lake is particularly beautiful with dark green, light green and white colours contrasting. Those interested in climbing it should inquire at the Volcanologist Office in Tahuna.

MAHARO ISLAND. This beautiful tiny island is located on the eastern side of Siau Island. Justly proud of the beauty of its own, touring to this island is a wonderful opportunity to visit a Portuguese ruined fortress. Only a few minutes by a motorized outrigger canoe from Siau harbour

SARA ISLAND. Heavily forested with lush verdant tropical vegetation, this tiny island bustles with the activity of Maleo birds, cockatoos and other birds. It is surrounded by white sandy beaches and there is extensive coral reefs nearby. Take a motorized outrigger canoe from Lirung harbour (45 minutes) or from Melangguane Airport (60 minutes) to this splendid island.

KARANGETANG VOLCANO. Towering 1.800 m in Siau, this volcano is still active and last erupted in 1974. Karangetang Volcano graces the entrance to Siau harbour.

NUTMEG PLANTATION IN SIAU. Blessed by fertile land, caused by ash from the Karengetan Volcano, some villages used their land for nutmeg plantations. Indeed, most of the ground is covered by green and thick nutmeg trees, and makes a breathtaking view of this spice forest.

SANTIAGO MAUSOLEUM. Lying among towering coconut palms and a flowery garden, overlooking a beautiful stretch of forested mountains and sea views, is the King Santiago Mausoleum. The kind ruled Manganitu Kingdom from 1670 – 1677. Only 14 km from Tahuna by a microlet (small public bus).

MAHANGETANG UNDERWATER VALCANO. Lies 4 – 8 meters underwater, only about 300 m off the island of Mahangetang, this underwater volcano affords a magnificent view of water boiling under the sea. Located 18 miles away from Tahuna, it is easily reached by hiring a motorized outrigger canoe from Tahuna harbour.

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